Government of Sierra Leone quashed seditious libel court charges against Dr Blyden

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 November 2020:

President Julius Maada Bio  of Sierra Leone today made good on his promise to review all ongoing cases of criminal and seditious libel in the country’s courts, of which there was only one – that of Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, following his government’s repeal of Part 5 of the notorious Public Order Act 1965.  (Photo: Attorney General – Anthony Breway and Dr Sylvia Blyden outside the Court Room today).

The order to declare Dr Blyden’s case as ‘no case to answer’ – “nolle prosequi” – came from the Attorney General himself at the Pademba Road Court in Freetown. Speaking outside the Court room to journalists, this is what Attorney General Brewah said:

But Dr Blyden was not impressed, and indeed is very angry at what she refers to as the government’s disgraceful behaviour, and abuse of power and human rights in bringing trumped-up seditious libel charges against her. This is what she said to journalists after her trial was quashed today:

 

Commenting on today’s “nolle prosequi”, journalist and former information attaché in the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia – Mr Mohamed B. Jalloh said: “For me, I don’t think anybody should take credit for the removal of the so-called ten-counts charge for Criminal Libel against Dr Blyden.  The questions begging for answers are – Was there any case against Dr Blyden in the first place? If yes, where is the evidence? If no, why was she illegally detained?

“So if there was no case against Dr Blyden, I think she deserves to be compensated, followed by apologies for her illegal and malicious detention. How can you keep someone behind bars for weeks without charging the matter to court? And when charged, no evidence was produced to show that she was being incarcerated for this or that. The other question is, how many Sierra Leoneans are currently illegally detained? This is a cheap way of boosting the democratic credentials of the government.”

This is the statement published by the government this afternoon:

15 Comments

  1. Witch hunt, if the COI is a kangaroo court, then why cant the accused not give a fair account of their assets? Furthermore, I have not been in authority. Power begets responsibility, therefore, the onus is on the people who gain power or have it to facilitate the development of the nation. Industrious foreigners, please, you mean crooks who are in league with crooked politicians.

    I have observed that in your statement, you have not mentioned Sierra Leone or the nation.
    It seems your perspective is limited to the two parties. Please, platitudes like “what you can do for your country”. We are the poorest country in the world, even war torn Syria is ranked higher. Classic syndrome of the emperor’s new clothes.

    • Power begets responsibility, so does being a citizen to any country – its called our Civic responsibility. Answer – what have you done aside from whining and complaining for those poor and disadvantage communities in Sierra Leone? Hey! you don’t have to be knee-deep in government or holding on to the reins of power to become a voice for the hungry homeless beggar born and raised in the same country as yourself, neither should you or anyone else naively, ridiculously expect a cash-strapped government to solve all our challenges and problems.

      Listen, if your procrastinating idle hands cannot sow a seed, or find time to comfort the sick, surely it can donate to an orphanage in need of our money, advice and time. We all agree that times are hard in Africa but does that mean we should take dangerous foolhardy risks that are bound to give us frightening nightmares and lead us towards a guaranteed catastrophic dead end eventually? Strange is not, that in Sierra Leone, my only home no one wants to take responsibility for their indiscretions and failures?

      Even Dead-beat dads and moms that have worsen their children’s living conditions by abandoning them to fend for themselves and denying them much needed financial, moral, intellectual and cultural tutelage are up in arms casting blame on a struggling government. What a delusional bunch of irresponsible people Africans have become. Again, charity begins at home they say, Why won’t the criminal SLPP and their disenchanted old soldier declare all their assets to show that they are truly transparent and serious about fighting corruption? These Good for nothings are building mansions in these hard Covid19 times with Covid money milking the system totally dry, yet pointing fingers of blame.(lol) A damn shame!

  2. Mr. Delvin Smith, I salute you for your forthrightness. May I ask you sir, if it pleases you, to abandon the role play of fanning tribalism, now that you’re admitting you’ve been in the middle of it and political tribalism is bad for the country? Does it make sense to you, sir? I believe you, sir. You also touched on very important concerns; the silence of every successive government over the increasingly dangerous foreign takeover of the country’s economy and the issue of Sierra Leonean youths, girls and boys, dangling as slave workers in the Middle East.

    On this note, kudos to President Bio who, on his recent visit to Lebanon, his attention was drawn to the plight of young Sierra Leoneans who came to settled there, not too long ago but, found themselves virtually in slavery in the hands of their masters, Muslim and Christian Lebanese. My point is sir, president Bio organized the return of a sizable number back home. That is worthy of consideration in my humble view.

    Yes, the issues you highlighted deserve every attention and thought. We must put political tribalism behind us for nation building, strive to fix the economy and preserve our national sovereignty. When it’s done this way with round the clock light and pipe borne water all over, in such order that improves the quality of life, then and only then, would every peaceful loving diaspora Sierra Leonean, make the decision to go back home or stay overseas. Our compatriots at home too, would have no need to travel to the Middle East or elsewhere where they would strangled themselves. I stand to be corrected sir.

  3. A.P.C party does not exist anymore. It has been hijacked by a bunch of crooks from Thaimu Bangura’s PDP sorbeh. Tribalism is the order of the day, furthermore, as a Creole, this bunch of criminals masquerading as politicians use us to fan tribalism.

    Sierra Leone as a nation is ruled by the Lebanese and foreign interests. Our children are sent as slaves to the middle east, while we squabble over A.P.C and S.L.P.P who have bought us from the pinnacle of achievements to sub-human standard.

    • The APC party doesn’t exist anymore? Bwahahahaha! Says who? Last time I checked the legendary APC was still alive, robust and kicking – we are not just surviving now but thriving in the midst of Witch-hunts, humiliations and persecutions being perpetrated against us by the notorious Criminal SLPP Cabal. See, if you believe that the APC and the SLPP have reduced our nation from enviable heights of glory to the lowest most humiliating depths of shame, then do something about it – Turtle stick your neck out, empty rhetoric just will not suffice.(lol)

      Hey! If someone sits around all day, everyday drinking palm-wine and chasing big booty and a stranger that is resolute and resourceful seizes untapped opportunities from him, he has no one to blame but himself. Its unfair to point finger at industrious foreigners for shortcomings that come from our own lack of vision, poor sense of judgement and frivolous, lackadaisical attitudes.

  4. The idea that victims who have been unjustly treated by the law, should not be rewarded now, because, it had never been the practice of the last century to do so, doesn’t give a sense of “New Direction”. Why shouldn’t it be done? It’s long overdue.
    Victims who the system deal with as it pleases, for no lawful reason, made to suffer jail term, should be justly compensated.

    This is not asking too much. We are a progressive society at least, in my personal fable. There shouldn’t be any fear of what the public will make of it. It makes sense to check impunity. The Government, Police, Army and institutions generally, will act wisely and cautiously, not to rush to judgement or falsely frame people and jail them at whim; if and when there are serious financial consequences for their acts and rewards to victims involved. It’s never too late to do right.

    It is time to compensate the victimized, to check impunity, from whichever quarter it is emerging.
    The idea that “we can deal with you as we please and pay for it” have been for far too long the order of things destroying the lives and reputations of the less powerful, mostly journalists.

  5. It is all in divine order – the good and bad things that happen in our lives are not accidents but rewards and penalties purposefully directed towards our doorsteps by the positive and negative energies we have encouraged, nurtured and displayed with fervor, conviction and resoluteness in our every day lives.

    Listen, nothing happens by accident; what goes around always comes around – a ruthless hunter becomes renowned and celebrated for killing wild animals without breaking a sweat. Suddenly one day a grizzly bear appears out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere and eats him alive. “He had it coming, “the little squirrels said giggling, as they nibbled joyfully on their walnuts. We reap what we sow; those who are untruthful, dishonest and insincere always end up facing unexpected violent whirlwinds and firestorms in their lives. Sylvia Blyden should examine herself first and quit crying, complaining and pointing fingers.

    Self evaluation will enable her to clearly see and understand why the SLPP Criminal Cabal handpicked her like a fruit in an orchard that was then blended thoroughly into juice, only to be discarded for no sensible reason whatsoever in the end. Funny is it not, how a player got played by swindlers huh?(lol) I have no sympathy for such a person – since she tried to pull a fast one on the Legendary APC,I lost all respect for her; My advice to the APC is to steer clear from this issue – STAY ENTIRELY AWAY!

    Let her shed all her copious crocodile tears until they begin to flow like a little crawling menacing river heading to nowhere!

  6. When has compensation ever been paid for miscarriage of justice in Sierra Leone? And even if it is paid now, will it not look like saying ‘we can deal with you as we please, and pay for it?’

    • Thanks Mr. Peter Dauda, once again I respect your opinion. But, if you allow me, I beg to defer. Everything has a beginning. It is not beyond the realm of possibilities. Remember the world was never created in one day and tiny drops of water make a mighty ocean. If the government institutes a compensation scheme, for wrongful arrest and detection, especially in politically charged cases like this one, next time they will think twice before they arrest your fellow Sierra Leoneans for FACEBOOK POSTINGS.

      The government cannot use the powers of the state to try and silence individual citizens who want to express their opinion about how to run their country. I am all for free speech, because that is what a healthy democracy is all about. I suppose we don’t live under a dictatorship, or so we are told. You can express yourself as long as you do not advocate violence against the state, discriminate against individual or certain sections of a community as happened in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

      So your suggestion is, if the government of Sierra Leone don’t like your opinion that you express, maybe on policy matters that directly impact certain things in your life or the wider communities at large, the state have the right to arrest you, or should be given the free pass and throw you in Pademba Road prisons with common prisoners without the right of HABEAS CORPUS. I certainly, or majority of Sierra Leoneans don’t want to live in such a state. Not in my name. We still agree to disagree.

  7. It’s good day for Dr. Blyden and her family and supporters . Now what happens next is more important. The government needs to tell us, as a matter of national interest, why they reach this decision, and most importantly they owe her a public apology, and compensation for what she went through. This case highlights why we need an independent judiciary, that is there to act as a bulwark against the state to protect the citizen. The Criminal defamation case brought against journalists, violates all the norms that prescribe freedom of speech.

    The crime should be considered civil not criminal. The use of criminal defamation laws against Dr Blyden, was disproportionate and a blunt instrument that placed unnecessary restrictions on freedom of speech. If anything, the case sends chilling effect for both legitimate and harmful free speech. This is all the more problematic when cases are filed by overzealous government officials against a private citizen.

    To stop this sort of disgraceful behaviour happening again, politicians in public office like Bio, must tolerate a great degree of scrutiny and criticism than an ordinary citizen. That is why they say you are in the public eye. What happened to Dr. Blyden can happen to anyone. Today its her, tomorrow could be you or a member of your family. Bio more than anyone should know this. IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN!

    • Mr. Jalloh I think that the government press release which is attached as part of this article states that the president had promised few weeks ago when he was appending his signature as the last stage in the repeal of the seditious act, that the judiciary will look at and drop all cases in trial that were sent to Court under the of the seditious act.

      After the seditious act was dropped, this glorious paper joined the family and friends of the accused to ask the government to drop the case. Now that this has been heeded to we are finding fault with that.

    • Mr Yie Manga, I think we all want our country to be a place we can be proud of and call home. This repealing of the seditious Act by president Bio is not the end of the restriction on the freedom of speech, or more importantly press freedom. The end of apartheid in South Africa, didn’t catapult black south Africans to economic emancipation . Historically, Press freedom in Sierra Leone has always been a challenge for journalists.

      The idea that all pending seditious cases are to be dropped, due to the repeal of the 1965 seditious libel laws is a welcome development. That doesn’t mean those that have been campaigning for press freedom in Sierra leone should take their feet off the gas pedal. Whether its this government or future governments, we should always keep reminding them about the value of free speech. Because the sooner you relax, the greater the chances of going back to the bad old ways. And with COVID19, a tanking economy , a government suffering from crisis of confidence, rampant corruption, now more than ever we have to be on our guard. Because Bio and his government will be looking for scapegoats to divert the real issues facing our country. And you don’t want to be that person that get the hair dryer treatment from Bio.

  8. Now, tell me who rules in Sylvia Blyden’s case and why was ten fake charges of libel and defamation proffered against her? were these charges rule of law material or rule as it pleases the supreme executive president? Because there is no democratic country on planet earth where the law rules and in any situation therein, where there is lack of evidence against the suspect of a crime, the evidence to be presented by the prosecution, like in Blyden’s case, the grand jury would within two shakes of a lamb’s tail dismissed the suspect or discharged.

    There would have been no detention of Sylvia for a day, let alone, for nearly sixty days, without just compensation? This kind of violation of people’s rights with impunity is worrisome. It only happens in authoritarian regimes in sharp contrast to democracies. In true democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, listening to and learning from your sharpest critics, creating dialogue, working together and making compromises where opinions differ, are quintessential values. The people’s rights and essential dignities must be respected.

    It’s wrong to Manufacture charges, carrying arrests and detaining people for nearly sixty days, for no lawful or actionable reason. Extra judicial, politically motivated, and unlawful actions like that should have no place in our fledgling democratic society. Making poster girls and boys to intimidate any opposition, prevent the public from participating, to freely express dissent is counterproductive.

  9. Dr. Blyden, I guess you will say thanks to God. Relax and let the people speak for you instead. Do not open another trap for yourself again, this is enough maybe the world might speak for you. Don’t become a (Lol). Now today, you have started using some harsh language like” disgraceful, abuse of power and so on, why all this? You were in jail for how long nobody came to your rescue, neither the APC party that you were killing yourself for, do they? If I were you; for sometimes I will live like if I am not. Can’t you learn a lesson? Do you think that APC will accept you as their flag bearer come 2023? Sister you’re dreaming. Take care.

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